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Film series opens with stories of women and nonviolence in Colombia

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, located at Bethel College, begins its spring film series April 14 with We Women Warriors (Tejiendo Sabiduría).

The 82-minute documentary screens at 7 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center. The film is free and open to the public, with a freewill offering taken to support the work of KIPCOR.

We Women Warriors – written, directed and produced by Nicole Karsin – tells the story of three indigenous women in Colombia who use nonviolent methods to fight for their people’s survival.

After the showing of the film, Jennifer Chappell-Deckert, senior mediator and trainer at KIPCOR and an instructor for Bethel’s Department of Social Work, recently returned from three years in Colombia with her family under Mennonite Central Committee, will lead a talk-back session.

Chappell-Deckert never met any of the three women featured in the film – Doris Puchana, Ludis Rodriguez and Flor Ilva Trochez – but for much of her time in Colombia, she worked with people, mostly women, whose stories were very similar.

The people came to the church in Bogotá where Chappell-Deckert was based “looking for assistance because they were being threatened for the same reasons as in the movie – for speaking up about the murder of a family member, for community organizing, for resisting the activities of the government or paramilitary groups,” she says.

Puchana is a young Awá tribal leader trying to protect a group of internal refugees fleeing combat between the Colombian army and guerrillas.

Rodriguez, a widow and mother of three, spent a year in prison after being framed on false charges of rebellion. When she returns to her Kankuamo village, she forms a weaving cooperative with other victims of the systematic murders perpetrated by paramilitary groups.

Trochez was the first woman elected to lead her 300-year-old Nasa tribal government. She faces a crisis caused by police barracks that endanger civilians by placing them in the rebels’ line of fire. After the army kills an 11-year-old boy, Trochez spearheaded a movement in which some15,000 Nasa villagers collectively dismantled the barracks. 

Chappell-Deckert noted that the United States recently passed a fair trade agreement with Colombia (it went into effect a little less than a year ago, May 15, 2012) that “requires that human rights violations are no longer happening in Colombia,” she says.

“One reason it’s important for North Americans to see this film,” she says, “is because we don’t get an accurate picture from our government of what things are like in Colombia. Human rights violations are still very prevalent, especially surrounding large corporate interests.

“The second thing we need to realize is that many of the North American business interests in Colombia, especially related to lumber and energy sources are [directly] affecting people’s lives and well-being in Colombia.”

Chappell-Deckert also noted that every April for the past number of years, the MCC Central States office in North Newton has encouraged local churches to participate in a national MCC campaign called Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia (see washington.mcc.org/days), centered on the final weekend, April 28-29 this year.

KIPCOR hopes showing We Women Warriors will help build awareness for this campaign.

Filmmaker Nicole Karsin covered Colombia’s armed conflict as an  independent journalist for a U.S. audience from 2002-09. She formed Todos Los Pueblos Productions LLC in 2007 with the goal of moving audiences to action through artful, character-driven films about global struggles for human rights and dignity.

We Women Warriors premiered in August 2012 in New York City and Los Angeles.

For more information about the showing of We Women Warriors, contact KIPCOR at 316-284-5217.

The film series continues May 9 with Harvest of Empire, about immigration from Central and South America to the United States. Hamilton Williams, Bethel College associate professor of social work, will lead the talk-back session.

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2012-13 Forbes.com analysis of premier colleges and universities in the United States and ranks in the top five “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2012-13. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.